Protégé of Woody Guthrie, teacher to Bob Dylan, and inspiration to Mick Jagger, 75-year-old Ramblin' Jack Elliott bulldozes the mountain-size pile of weepy singer-songwriter albums this year with ease on this twentieth-odd release I Stand Alone. Damn right, this Grammy winner stands alone. The album's cover art depicts the grizzled folk archetype in a cowboy hat and bandanna standing against wild hills. Pop this rambler into your CD player and Elliott unloads story after story of trains crashing, dogs dying, wives cheating, and drugs addicting. The fast-moving songs run two minutes apiece, and Elliott's hard-earned humor tempers the sorrow. Underneath it, his flat-picking style and sense of rhythm simply stun. Flea plays some bass, X's drummer supports, and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney even does some vocals. Goddamn! Weirdly, the Anti- label delivers this gem amid dropping hits this year by the Coup and Tom Waits. So WTF? Maybe it knew Elliott's enormous talent and concision slices through the noise in every genre and speaks to lovers of huge talent, pure and simple. If you never buy a folk album, buy this one. And see Elliott live in San Francisco Saturday, October 7 in Golden Gate Park.
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